You don’t necessarily have to be a mechanic to own an automobile, but you should be able to perform basic maintenance tasks like checking the oil, refilling your wiper fluid, and properly washing and waxing your car. The same principle applies to other types of vehicles, as well, and every boat owner should know a few things about how to maintain a boat.
You can leave a lot of the heavy lifting to your mechanic and other specialists that know how to clean and care for your watercraft. If you want to save some money and make sure your investment stays in ship shape, however, there’s a lot you can do in the meantime. Here are a few basics that will help you to keep your boat looking pristine and purring like a catfish.
Washing, Waxing, Polishing, and Protecting
The hull of your boat can pick up algae, barnacles, and all matter of grime and detritus when sitting in water, whether it’s in regular use or not. The finish can become damaged by salt water, as can metal parts and other hardware exposed to moisture. The deck of your boat can also be damaged by exposure to sun, water, and/or salt.
At the very least, you should rinse the hull, deck, and fixtures with fresh water regularly, but you might also want to wash with cleanersers on a regular basis to prevent damage and keep your watercraft sparkling. Your best bet is to use proper marine cleansers, but in a pinch, washing with car soap should suffice.
After cleaning, you should wax and polish your boat. Wax helps to seal and protect the gel coat from damage and it will make your hull look shiny and new. You don’t want to deal with oxidization that makes your finish look foggy and dull even when it’s clean, so polishing regularly is a must. With ongoing maintenance through cleaning, waxing, polishing, and generally protecting the finishes on your boat, you’ll keep it looking beautiful at little expense for years to come.
Teak and Other Brightwork
Many older boats and some newer ones with a retro flair feature wooden surfaces that provide a rich, traditional appeal. Keeping these wooden surfaces in good repair takes some work, but it’s worth it for the beauty they add to your boat.
Teak is one of the most common hardwoods used on boats, and it weathers well, even untreated. While you can use varnish, oil, or other sealing products to protect your teak and add a golden hue, many boat owners choose to leave it uncoated. Under the sun, it will develop a lovely silver patina in time.
Either way, regular cleaning and care are essential to avoid stains, mildew, warping, and other issues. It’s best to choose a mild cleanser specifically for teak. There are certainly potent products on the market (like 2-step cleansers), but these could harm your wood and other surfaces over time. Make sure to use soft cloth or brushes when cleaning wood, and always wipe or scrub against the grain.
Canvas, PVC, Upholstery, and Vinyl
Textiles are part of nearly every boat, whether they’re used for seating, storage cover, shade, plastic windows, or other purposes. In most cases, avoiding harsh cleansers like ammonia and bleach is a given. Canvas, upholstery, and vinyl can all be washed regularly with fresh water and a gentle soap like Dawn. A mixture of water and OxiClean can help to remove tough stains like mildew, although a mildew-specific product may also be in order.
PVC is another matter, and improper cleaning can cause it to fog and deteriorate rapidly. If you have any PVC panels on your boat, use cleansers and polishes specifically made for this material.
Changing the Oil
Just like your car, your boat will require regular oil changes, whether you’re dealing with outboard or inboard motors. Oil can evaporate and get fouled over time, and this will compromise the integrity of your engine.
Unfortunately, you can’t just unscrew a cap to let the oil drain out like you do with your car. You’ll need specialized tools, namely an oil extractor suction tube to pump out the oil. Removing and replacing the oil filter is pretty self-explanatory, after which you can add new oil to your engine. You may want to get a tutorial from your boat mechanic or look for online videos pertaining to your particular engine before you attempt this maintenance on your own.
When it comes to basic boat maintenance, you can probably leave the work of making repairs or finding the best batteries for electric trolling motors to trusted professionals. However, there are several tasks every boat owner can and should undertake. With proper cleaning and care, your boat will serve you well for years.